Frozen pipes can crack or break, due to the water inside expanding as it freezes, and this can cause flooding in your home, which can lead to structural damage and mold development. |
Any pipe can freeze, but those that are most exposed to severe cold, like the ones that run along exterior walls, pose the greatest risk. Here’s what you need to know to avoid frozen pipes this winter.
Preparing Your Pipes for Winter
Before the cold temperatures set in, it is important to take some steps to prevent pipes from freezing. Drain and disconnect all outside hoses, storing them on reels outside or in the garage. Close the inside valves that supply your hose water, but keep the outside hose valves open to allow room for expansion of any remaining water.
You’ll want to keep your outside faucets protected as well, so you may want to consider covering them with an insulation kit purchased at a local home or hardware store. Insulation may also be necessary for the water supply lines in the unheated areas of your home, including the basement, attic, crawl space and garage. Pipe sleeves or heat tape, which runs around or along the pipe, can be used to protect exposed pipes from freezing.
Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing
When the temperature outside drops to the mid-20s, take quick action to prevent potential damage. First, regulate the temperature inside your home by keeping your thermostat continually at the same setting, day and night, of at least 55 degrees.
Pipes commonly freeze because homeowners turn down the thermostat at night or when they leave home. Regulating the thermostat may add a bit to your heating bills, but it can help you avoid the additional expense of repairing frozen pipes and cleaning up the subsequent water damage.
In bathrooms and kitchens with supply lines that run along exterior walls, take extra precautions. Pipes under the sinks are particularly vulnerable to freezing. To lessen the likelihood of this, let the faucets slowly drip continuously. This keeps the water moving and makes it less likely to freeze.
You can also open the doors of sink cabinets, to allow the warm air in your home to circulate around the pipes. Make sure, however, to remove any hazardous cleaners or chemicals from the cabinets first if you have children or pets.
Thawing Frozen Pipes
If you turn the faucet knob and get only a trickle of water instead of a full flow, you may have a frozen pipe. Carefully examine all visible pipes for splits or cracks. If you see one, call a licensed plumber immediately to repair it.
If the pipes are intact, you may be able to thaw the ice inside. As you work, keep the faucet open to allow the water to flow. You can try using a portable space heater or electric hair dryer to apply heat to the pipes, or you can wrap the frozen pipes with an electric heating pad or with towels soaked in hot water. If you are unable to restore the flow of water, call a plumber immediately for help.
Interested in learning more about getting your home’s plumbing ready for the cold winter season? Contact a licensed plumber in your area for information and advice on preventing frozen pipes in your home.
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